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If Books Could Talk: The Story of Three Jewish Treasures Rescued from the Vilna Ghetto
November 24, 2014

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24 | 7:00pm

Diary of young Theodor Herzl, kept from 1882 to 1887. YIVO Archives.
Admission: Free
RSVP Required: | (212) 294-8301 x5167

What are the secret lives of books? In the Vilna Ghetto, Yiddish poets Abraham Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski and others risked their lives to rescue Jewish treasures from destruction and looting by the Nazis. David Fishman (Jewish Theological Seminary) selects three of the extraordinary items they saved—Theodor Herzl’s diary, the minute-book from the Vilna Gaon’s synagogue, and an original manuscript of Jacob Gordin’s classic Yiddish play Mirele Efros—and reveals their "biographies": their composition and significance; the story of their acquisition by YIVO; their rescue; and their retrieval after Vilna's liberation. Two of these works were safely transported to YIVO in New York, but the third work encountered a very different fate in Soviet Lithuania.

The Ruth Gay Seminar in Jewish Studies was established in 2008 in honor of Ruth Gay (1922-2006), the noted American Jewish historian and writer, with a generous gift from the family of Ruth Gay. The seminar series is given by scholars who have conducted research in the YIVO Archives and wish to share their work with the public. For inquires related to Ruth Gay Seminars, please contact Senior Archivist, Fruma Mohrer, at or (212) 294-6143.


David E. Fishman is professor of Jewish History at The Jewish Theological Seminary, and serves as director of Project Judaica, a Jewish-studies program based in Moscow that is sponsored jointly by JTS and Russian State University for the Humanities. Fishman is the author of numerous books and articles on the history and culture of East European Jewry, including Russia's First Modern Jews (New York University Press) and The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture (University of Pittsburgh Press). He has taught at universities in Israel, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania, and serves on the editorial boards of Jewish Social Studies and Polin.
Venue: YIVO Institute at the Center for Jewish History  |  15 West 16th Street - NYC   view map

For directions and parking information, click here.

All public programs are wheelchair accessible. A limited number of assistive listening devices are available for deaf and hard of hearing individuals upon request.